A couple of weeks ago, as I sat in a meeting of our Spanish-speaking LDS branch, I noticed something.
A friend of mine, from El Salvador, had skin much darker than mine, but his countenance beamed far brighter.
I can have a melancholy side to me — a brooding, self-absorbed look that throws a shadow across my features.
My friend, on the other hand, sat in the congregation beaming like Our Father’s mercy.
That’s when I realized I was the one “cursed” with dark features.
I was more "Lamanite" than he was.
I remembered the scripture:
“Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites.
“But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites” (Jacob 1: 13-14).
Ultimately, being "dark" pointed to a withdrawal of God's spirit. It was about piety, not pigment.
In other words, a person could be as pale as a Swedish princess but, if she abandoned the light, she was a "Lamanite" with a darkened countenance.
That scripture shines a light on something I believe very deeply:
Nothing that is part of our true identity can ever be a curse.
We can be cursed only by our own hurtful attitudes.
Over the years I’ve heard people say that good looks were a “curse” or that so-and-so was “cursed” with a big nose.
Being left-handed was once seen as a curse. In Spanish, the word for left-handed is “sinestre” — “sinister.”
But, like so much in our world, all those “curses” can really be chalked up to regional biases.
Here in the States, we see being heavy as a curse. Tell that to the Africans who are starving.
As human beings, we are quick to demonize anyone who is different.
We see distinctions as a threat.
Our aging texts, both secular and religious, sometimes show such racial and cultural biases.
Those texts cast people who look different as threatening.
But I see no need, today, to go back and rewrite the books.
The key is to see the attitudes in them for what they are and press ahead.
We have more information now.
We have a better understanding.
We are finally learning to avoid judging someone's identity — male, female, old, bald, black, white, tall, short, left-handed or whatever.
Those things we are at heart should not be seen as a curse.
The real curse is our nagging tendency to judge others for traits that make people different, but really don’t make a difference.